The times they are a changing — but baseball purists, you might want to look away.
Triple-A baseball will implement electronic strike zones for the 2023 season in all 30 stadiums, according to ESPN.
The ABS (automatic balls and strikes) system will be used in two ways: half the games will be called strictly based on the system, while teams in the other half will be able to challenge the umpire’s ruling, with the system making the final call.
In the games where challenges will be allowed, both teams will get three each, and they will retain each successful challenge, ESPN notes.
Major League Baseball will use the data and feedback from both systems for its future decisions on putting the ABS at the big-league level.
The Independent Atlantic League was the first to use the ABS system during its All-Star Game in 2019. The Arizona Fall League also used the system that same year. It has since expanded to all levels of minor league baseball, but this will be the first time it is used throughout all of Triple-A after partial usage last season.
Early feedback from the “robo umps” has been positive, but there are still gripes — if a game is strictly called electronically, the art of framing by a catcher is essentially lost and a huge part of a home plate umpire’s job will no longer exist.
According to T-Bones Baseball, MLB reported a 14.7 missed-call percentage on balls and strikes.
MLB will introduce a pitch clock this season to increase game speed (although there is already a rule in place on when a pitcher must deliver). The league has also limited the use of shifts, ruling that two infielders must be on both sides of the dirt. There also will be larger bases this season as well as a limit on pick-off moves.
According to Statista, the average length of a baseball game is three hours and three minutes. The average length of a game has been at least three hours in each of the last seven years and eight of the last nine. Prior, it had never been at that number.